03 December, 2013 - Major international assessment shows Ireland’s 15 year olds improve dramatically in Science

Irish students among best in OECD in reading literacy

The latest OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results show that in 2012, Ireland’s 15-year-olds are among the best OECD countries in reading and are performing significantly above the OECD average in mathematics and science.  These results show significant improvements in all areas when compared to the last PISA results in 2009.

Ireland has seen most improvement in science where it is now ranked 9th out of 34 OECD countries; this is up five places since 2009.  Ireland is placed 4th out of 34 countries for reading and 13th of the 34 OECD countries for mathematics.

In reading, Irish students have outperformed countries like New Zealand, Australia, Northern Ireland, the UK and US and are now ranked 4th out of 34 OECD countries.  Ireland is performing at a similar level to Finland in reading and ahead of all other European countries.

Irish students’ performance in mathematics is now above the OECD average and ranked 13th out of 34 countries.  But, it should be noted that there has been a small decline in the average score across OECD countries between 2009 and 2012, and this contributed to Ireland’s above average position in 2012.  

There had been an unexpected drop in the performance of Irish students in reading and maths in 2009 and the lost ground has now been recovered. However, mathematics and reading scores have remained relatively unchanged since Ireland first participated in PISA in 2000. In contrast, the performance of Irish students in science has improved compared to all previous cycles.

Commenting on the PISA 2012 results published by the OECD today, the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D., said: "I welcome the publication of these important results from the OECD PISA tests. While these are only one set of test results at one point in time, I am delighted to see Irish students performing well in reading and science and quite well in mathematics. I want to thank especially teachers who do so much to advance the learning of their students and to the students themselves who participated in the tests.

"I am particularly delighted to see the improvement in the science scores of our students.

"However, we cannot be complacent. While we are doing well, we are not among the top performers internationally, especially in relation to mathematics, where our students are scoring just above the OECD average. We have made good progress in improving the performance of lower achieving students in mathematics and reading but our higher achieving students are underperforming relative to students in other countries.

"PISA 2012 also shows that we must continue to promote reading among boys and mathematics among girls. Indeed, we have to continue to improve all our students’ performance, if we are to achieve a world class educational system. All students need to be challenged and motivated to achieve to their full potential through better quality learning and teaching.

"PISA 2012 shows that it takes time for initiatives to impact on performance.  It is only now that we are seeing the positive impact of revisions to the science curriculum at primary level in 1999 and the Junior Cycle in 2003 which focus on practical investigation by students. In the next round of PISA in 2015, we should begin to see the impact of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, and of Project Maths, which is now being experienced by all students starting Junior Cycle."

Minister Quinn concluded, "The findings of PISA 2012 are a testament to the good practice that takes place on a daily basis in our schools in terms of implementing reform and engaging in quality teaching and learning. I congratulate our schools on these achievements.  I know that we can be among the very best performing countries in the world and I urge all those in the education system to continue to work together to achieve this."